Left Coast Voices

"I would hurl words into the darkness and wait for an echo. If an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight." Richard Wright, American Hunger

Archive for the tag “Spiral Gardens”

Urban Adamah – Farming and Learning in Berkeley

Urban Adamah is a Jewish urban farm walking distance from my house. I have been there a few times for events and my eldest son goes regularly for a workshop.

As urban as it gets

Adamah is hebrew for earth and when the group received permission to develop the land, earth is one thing they did not find. Instead, the land was full of chemicals and metals from past construction projects. Today, only a year later, there are proud boxes straining with vegetables.

Urban agriculture has been discussed in this blog and I have highlighted another project nearby – Spiral Gardens. I want to share something special at Urban Adamah, an opportunity to participate in a three month fellowship.

For anyone in between jobs, taking a gap year, or needing sometime to reassess, this is a great program. I have spoken with a number of fellows and am profoundly impressed by the depth of their knowledge, enthusiasm and commitment to continue their eco-Jewish journey.

This pretty much reflects the goal of this program: “The Urban Adamah Fellowship is a three-month residential leadership-training program for young adults that integrates urban organic farming, direct social justice work and progressive Jewish living and learning. The fellowship curriculum is designed to equip fellows with the tools to become agents of positive change in their own lives and in their communities.”

Down on the farm at Urban Adamah

There is a similar program at my kibbutz in Israel, Kibbutz Lotan. This is not an urban program (the kibbutz in situated in the Afro-Syrian rift, desert country), but teaches many techniques that can be used in the city.  You actually reside in an eco-campus that previous students built and receive US university credits, and there is an element of conflict resolution built into the program.

The Kibbutz Lotan campus where fellows live and build.

Back to Urban Adamah and they have just opened applications for the next fellowship (I believe there are three a year). I suspect that places fill quickly, a sign that many Jews, myself included, are finding their way back to Judaism through environmental and social justice. And this is good news all round.

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/ and on Twitter (@alonshalevsf).

September is Locovore Month

There is a lot going on in September, some of it heavy, some of it fun. 9/11 stands out this year of course. It is also back to school for children and students and sometimes there is a feeling that we spent most of the summer on snooze and now it is back to top gear. For the Jewish People, this is a time of preparation as we approach our New Year and soon after, Yom Kippur, which while known as a day of atonement, is actually the conclusion of a month of self-analysis (who can atone for all their sins in one day?).

Community Supported Agriculture

But I also discovered something else about September. It is Locovore (also spelled Locavore) Month. The Urban Dictionary defines Locavores as people who eat food that is grown locally. Food grown in your region not only results in fresher and tastier foods, but also reduces pollution, keeps dollars in the community and has fewer food safety risks.

So I thought I would brainstorm a few simple ways we could celebrate Locovore Month:

1) Consider joining one of your local Community Supported Agriculture programs, where you receive a box of veggies weekly from a local farm. I wrote about this model a few month back.

2) Go to a Farmers Market. Yes I am often critical of these because they seem so pricey, but you do make a connection with your local farmers.

Farmers Markets - making connections

3) Host a potluck and have all your friends bring dishes that include food grown in your area (allowing local microbrewery products is acceptable in my opinion).

4) Support a local community garden. One with a social justice message (as well as an ecological one) is Spiral Gardens in Berkeley. You can volunteer and get dirt between your finger nails or stop by at their stall on Tuesdays. I wrote about Spiral Gardens here.

I believe there is considerable merit in the Locovore philosophy. I am not sure that total adoption is the right way, given that there are clear advantages to having access to very healthy produce grown in climates different to our own, but becoming more aware of our local farmers and supporting ourselves with what grows in our region is a sound value.

Finally, a left coast perspective: I discovered in my research that the Locovre movement gives credit for its creation to Santa Cruz and San Jose. How’s that for some local pride!

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/and on Twitter (#alonshalevsf).

Fresh Produce for the Homeless

Some time ago I wrote about Spiral Gardens, a community garden in Berkeley that donates produce and profit from its stand to a low-income housing group nearby.

While speaking at a panel about Jews and Social Justice last month, a woman from the audience who is a member of Congregation Emanu-El in San Francisco told us about that Jewish community’s involvement in the Free Farm Stand.

The goals of The Free Farm Stand include:

•help make locally grown, fresh and nutritious organic produce accessible to all, especially those families and individuals on low-incomes and tight budgets.

•help empower people who have the space to grow their own food and become more self-reliant.

•promote good nutrition and health

In addition to growing as much produce as possible, they also have a framework to harvest and collect produce from gardens in the Mission District. They also receive surplus from the local farmer’s market which they can distribute to homeless and low income populations.

If you are interested in volunteering, please call Lauren at Produce to the People: producetothepeople@gmail.com or by phone at 415-828-9733

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/

 

Left Coast Places: Spiral Gardens

Spiral Gardens is my local community garden. It is situated at the corner of Sacramento and Oregon Streets in Southwest Berkeley, on two blocks of public land at the end of a long-vacant former railroad right of way. It was founded in 1993 and is now officially incorporated as the Spiral Gardens Community Food Security Project, an independent 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.

There are five main projects. I have taken their description straight from the website.

* The Community Farm, behind the northwest corner of Oregon and Sacramento Streets, is our primary location for direct food production. At least half of the harvest goes to the low-income seniors in the adjacent housing complex, the rest is distributed among the volunteers who grow it.

* The Produce Stand provides fresh, mostly organic produce, from local regional family farms to the neighborhood at cost. It is located on the busy southwest corner Sacramento and Oregon Streets in front of the Nursery.

*The Community Harvest Project assists private homeowners and the community by harvesting excess fruit from backyard and community trees and distributing what would otherwise go to waste to people in need.

* The Nursery, located on the southwest corner of Sacramento and Oregon Streets, makes useful plants available at affordable prices. The nursery specializes in edible plants, culinary and medicinal herbs, California native and other habitat supporting plants (particularly butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds). All proceeds go to support the project.

The core volunteers are spread thin. Please check the website to see when people are invited to help out and then just drop in. People are very friendly, always willing to teach and chat. I don’t have my own garden for the first time in my life. Spiral Gardens gives me a lot more than I give back when I volunteer. And I love the fact that half the produce supports a low income seniors complex nearby. Giving back to the land, giving back to the community – what better way to spend a Saturday afternoon?
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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at www.alonshalev.com.

 

Spiral Gardens: A Call to Action

I am stealing this from the Berkeleyside listserve. I don’t have time tonight to post a blog and this really hits me. I have a blog post ready for the end of November (a week of food justice posts) about Spiral Gardens, where I love volunteering. The produce is sold in an area of low income far cheaper than the farmers markets, and is situated in a neighborhood where there are few options to buy fresh produce. Profits benefit low income senior citizens nearby. Please consider buying some of your produce there on Tuesday late afternoons.


Here is the Berkeleyside post:

Like many nonprofits, it took a while for the downturn in the economy to impact the nursery sales at Spiral Gardens, a community food security project on Sacramento Street in South Berkeley.

But this spring and summer plant sales dropped off dramatically, says co-director Lisa Stephens, and now the nonprofit may be forced to close its weekly produce stand if an infusion of funds is not secured quickly.

The all-volunteer organization is making a direct appeal to residents (striking black and yellow fliers can be found at farmers’ markets around town and at the group’s headquarters).

The gardens are a bright spot in a neighborhood that has seen a spate of violent crimes in recent months, including yesterday’s homicide.

The weekly produce stand offers locally grown, organic produce at cost in a neighborhood where corner liquor stores filled with unhealthy products are a mainstay.

While the stand is geared toward serving low-income residents, it welcomes all comers and only asks that consumers who can afford to pay a little extra when shopping for good quality produce do so.

Still, the Tuesday market, which runs from 3 p.m. until 7 p.m., typically runs at a loss. Up until now, the stand has been subsidized by plant sales.

Stephens says the group needs to raise about $10,000 in the next few months to keep the produce stand afloat. The organization’s operating costs run about $4,000 a month.

To meet their goal the group is running a raffle that will be drawn on the winter solstice (December 21). Prizes include a month’s worth of weekly produce, Ecology Center memberships, a $100 gift certificate from Blue Wind Botanical Medicine Clinic, and posters and books from Inkworks Press.

Readers who want to show their support can send donations to: Spiral Gardens, 2830 Sacramento Street, Berkeley, CA 94702, or swing by the produce stand and pick up some raffle tickets along with their greens.

The nursery is also looking for garden equipment donations to replace aging gear.

The executive director of Spiral Gardens, Daniel Miller, was the subject of a recent Berkeley Bites.
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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at www.alonshalev.com

 

 

 

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